Wendy Wu Tours guests Lianne and Dave Lambert recently returned from their ‘Highlights of India’ tour. They have kindly shared their travel journal with us, allowing you a unique and honest insight into Wendy Wu tour life. Here they talk about their experiences with our National Escort, Jasvir, the reality of India’s busy cities, what it’s actually like searching for tigers in Ranthambore, the warmth of the people they encountered and how they quickly learned to expect the unexpected!
Days 1-2: UK to Dehli
As soon as we arrived in Delhi, it was apparent what an exciting adventure we were about to embark on. The city’s vibrant sights, sounds and smells were an awesome eye-opener! We were met by our National Escort, Jasvir Saurana, who was so welcoming and immediately put us at ease; we knew we were in safe hands. From the huge Jama Masjid Mosque and the stunning Qutab Minar to the spice markets that made us all sneeze, we had a thrilling start to our tour.
Day 3: Dehli to Agra
In Agra Fort, we were enthralled by the history and stories of the past and then it was onto one of the highlights, the Taj Mahal. We arrived in the afternoon and as the sun began to set, it cast its colour onto the marble and the Taj Mahal transformed from white to yellow to orange. The surrounding gardens were equally beautiful.
Day 4: Agra to Khajuraho
After negotiating the bustling mayhem of the train station, we made our way to Orchha. What a fantastic place! After the wonder of the Taj Mahal, this was an unexpected gem. In the middle of the jungle, palaces, temples, and ancient buildings jutted out from the canopy in every direction with stunning views from Jehangir Mahal.
Day 5: Khajuraho to Varanasi
The Western Group of ornate temples in Khajuraho were beautiful. The intricate detail was a sight to behold, and we felt so lucky to have seen them. We then visited the Eastern Group and were lucky enough to see some Jain monks. Jasvir explained their religious beliefs and lifestyle, which are very different from ours.
After a short flight to Varanasi, we were bowled over by this religious capital’s extremely lively, colourful chaos! There were thousands of people, monks, and pilgrims, from all over India in many different styles of sari and headwear. The noise level was incredible as we made our way to the Ganges River to witness the Ganga Aarti ceremony from a boat. As night fell, there was a mesmerizing sense of spirituality. Having recently lost our baby grandson, we had our own very moving moment when we were able to light a candle in his name and set it afloat on the Ganges, watching it diminish like a star fading in the night sky.
Day 6: Varanasi
We had the chance to visit the Ghats of Varanasi in the beautiful sunrise light and see a funeral. Although it was disturbing on one level, it was equally moving and interesting to understand the religious significance of the ceremony. We moved on to Sarnath, where Lord Buddha delivered his first ceremony and learnt much about Buddhism. At a visit to a silk mill, I was lucky enough to be dressed in a beautiful sari – they are so much harder to assemble than they look!
Day 7: Varanasi to Jaipur
After most of the day spent travelling to Jaipur, we had an additional evening tour which was so lucky. We saw many beautiful city buildings lit up – notably the Palace of Winds with its 953-coloured windows displaying their full spectrum at night.
Day 8: Jaipur
This was a fabulous day filled with so many wonderful sights; the tranquillity and beauty of the Amber Fort, the incredibly clever feats of engineering at the Jantar Mantar Observatory and the elegantly beautiful Maharaja’s City Palace. This was topped off with a dinner dance where our tour group learnt some great Indian dance moves!
Day 9: Jaipur to Jodhpur
We set off for Jodhpur, thinking it might be a dull seven-hour coach journey; how wrong we were!
Firstly, we stopped off for a toilet break at a fabulous shop with the prices on everything! So, we all bought loads and ended up staying there much longer than planned! The second unexpected treat was a visit to the marble dump, where all the marble dust gets dumped and compacted down, turning it into a wonderous white wilderness with aqua pools of water. Just by sheer luck, we arrived as they were filming a Bollywood movie. It was a fabulous chance to watch the dancing and see the colourful costumes. On arrival in Jodhpur, we took tuk-tuks to the central market, now more accustomed to the usual dice with death in the traffic!
Day 10: Jodhpur
The day started with a visit to the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, with its magnificent chambers and wonderful views overlooking the blue city. Whilst there, we were treated to a musical demonstration by a talented musician who played traditional Indian instruments. As both of us are musicians, we were thrilled to have a go on them afterwards. We were all quite hungry, and Jasvir organised a samosa delivery to our bus from the best samosa maker in Jodhpur! They were delicious! The cenotaph Jaswant Thada had a magical feel in its elevated position.
We then visited a textile warehouse and were like children in a sweet shop! There were so many beautiful things at amazing prices. In the afternoon, we visited another stunning Palace – Umaid Bhawan and in the evening, we had an extra trip to a silver shop with some lovely jewellery.
Day 11: Jodhpur to Udaipur
Again, we needn’t have worried about a boring coach trip as on the way, we made a stop at the Royal Enfield Temple! It was hard to believe a temple could be dedicated to a motorbike but when Jasvir told us the story behind it, it made more sense! Towards the end of our journey, we stopped at a proper local market with a vibrant selection of fresh fruit and veg. I got to hold a one-month-old baby who was so gorgeous!
Day 12: Udaipur
How can the trip keep on getting better?! What a beautiful and romantic place Udaipur is. The lakes were stunning, and City Palace was just breathtaking. The boat trip to the Lake Palace on Lake Pichola was a wonderful way to see the beauty of the Palace and the surrounding area. After a delightful outdoor lunch, we visited an Art School and Sahelion Ki Bari Gardens, with its wonderful fountains and colourful exotic plants.
Jasvir told one of our group to walk along the fountain and clap to make the water go higher. We were all impressed and then had a good laugh when we realised someone was turning up the water pressure on hearing the clapping! At the Folklore Museum, we got to see a very clever puppet show which told a folk story. The wonderful day was rounded off with a lovely meal on a rooftop terrace with views of the city.
Day 14: Udaipur – Bundi
Another long coach journey was artfully interspersed with a visit to the Chittor Fort. We arrived at the Fort in our now seasoned familiarity with the hair-raising tuk-tuk driving! The area is expansive and impressive, with the highlight being feeding the monkeys and seeing their babies. A mother monkey came up to me and held my hand as she took the feed from me. Magical! On arriving in Bundi, we had a walking tour to see the unique step wells and the colourful market. It was the nicest market we visited; the people were so friendly, and no pressure to buy.
Day 14: Bundi – Ranthambore
True to form, Jasvir turned what was a potentially dull travelling day into one of the most exciting days of the whole trip. He discovered a festival happening in Bundi at the Taragarh Fort, so we set off to visit. We arrived to hordes of people, noise, music and the most incredible range of brightly coloured traditional costumes. It was exhilarating as we walked amongst everyone who greeted us with such friendliness and shared laughter; we were welcomed to join in the fun, which we did in full spirit! Everyone wanted our photos with them and to shake our hands. It was the most vibrant sight we’d ever seen.
The Fort was interesting too, with its beautiful murals, but our heads and hearts were taken with the people in the festival of Bundi. (We actually appeared in the local paper the next day!) We had to tear ourselves away to make the journey to Ranthambore, where we visited a women’s handicraft centre and dressed in beautiful saris. Some of us had henna tattoos done as well!
Day 15: Ranthambore
Following an early start, we set off to Ranthambore National Park in search of tigers. We sat in a safari-like open-top ‘canter’ which was a bumpy experience but gave us the full sensory experience of being in the open air. We saw the sunrise and were excited to find tiger paw prints in the sand. There was plentiful birdlife, including a kingfisher and an eagle and many deer and monkeys. However, the tigers were not showing themselves on either of our safaris, which was disappointing, but wildlife is not predictable. We did see a sloth bear which is apparently very unusual during the daytime.
Day 16: Ranthambore to Delhi
This was the start of our journey home and a sinking feeling that our fantastic tour was nearly at an end. The train to Delhi was very nice and it was great to see more of the country – we passed much rural diversity along the way. When we arrived in Delhi, getting to the bus was quite an experience. There were many people, vehicles, noise and honking bedlam before we reached our bus!
After a short rest at the hotel, we walked to our last dinner together in the very smart complex next to the airport. We had a wonderful final evening meal listening to a brilliant singer/guitarist who we sang along with. Our group also entertained the restaurant with a few Beatles songs! It was very hard to begin saying our goodbyes to those who were leaving on early flights the next day.
Day 17: Delhi to the UK
It was with genuine sadness that we said our goodbyes, not only to India, but to the wonderfully talented Jasvir and our whole group with whom we had formed such a bond. We had a truly magical trip; every day was special and every day will be a treasured memory that we were extremely lucky to experience. We will be back to visit India again!
Highlights of India
18 days from £4365pp
Fully Inclusive of Tour & Flights
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodphur - Taj Mahal - Ranthambore National Park - Spiritual River Ganges